Monday, December 19, 2011

An Outdoor Classroom

At Raphael House we are fortunate to be surrounded with a large area of wild bush covered hillsides.

This has allowed for the creation of many interesting projects around the school, such as gardens, play areas and even mountain biking tracks.

A recent continuation of this tradition has been an outdoor classroom with a fireplace surrounded by a circle of benches. This area has multiple uses as a fire circle for Lower School story telling, as well as a forge for making pottery and use as a smithy.

In these photos you can see Philip Robinson and Brett Whincup throwing their energy into creating the new outdoor education space in its early stages.

The area is also used for charcoal making, which involves wood collecting, sawing, splitting and stacking. When willow sticks are used, these can become charcoal sticks for use in Upper School art lessons. Its all part of the idea of making educational experiences practical and interconnected.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ex Raphael House student investigates antarctic sea ice

Andrew Martin at work in Antarctica
Andrew Martin was in the first pioneering class 12 that graduated from the Upper School at Raphael House in 1996.

After leaving school he studied animal and plant biology at Victoria University, and subsequently specialised in the microbes that live under the sea ice around Antarctica. These inconspicous little creatures have a huge influence on the Southern Ocean ecosystem because they are at the very base of the food chain upon which all the rest of the animals depend.
Andrew and his team drill through the sea ice for samples
Andrew has been on numerous expeditions to the frozen continent.
His research looks at how climate change will impact on these microbes as the sea ice is affected by warming of the sea water.

Andrew featured on Radio New Zealand's 'Nine to Noon' programme recently, where he explained his research from down on the ice to radio host Kathryn Ryan. Click here to listen to this interesting interview (9 mins 38 sec)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Class Three Building

This term Class Three have been working on their house building main lesson. In it we look into the history of house building and learn about some different types of houses, such as yurts and igloos, noting how they suited the environments they were used in. We also heard about animals that make their own houses, including beavers.

A house provides not only a shelter for us against the elements, but also a place of security and warmth, a place of community and comfort.

Class Three were lucky to have an experience of this on a small scale when they made shelters up in the pine forest. The pine forest is a familiar and beloved place for the children and they found a corner if it to make their own. They spent nearly three weeks (with much disruption from the weather) building, using wood, flax, coffee sacks, flax, bracken and ponga ferns. With parent support the children sawed, nailed and carried, working with focus to create their beautiful ‘homes’.

All the while they were envisaging how their shelter would be set up for the sleepover we were planning. They worked with their groups to create a special space to house them for one night. By creating this vision together there was a lovely sense of community within the groups.
When the sleepover finally arrived, with perfect weather, the children had indeed created a secure, safe space where they could comfortably sleep the night. They had a great time, from setting up their gear to a campfire with damper and marshmallows.

Purdy Biddle, Class Three Teacher.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Find your limits

Cow Creek Swingbridge
Raphael House has a long tradition of appreciating the  educational value of the great outdoors. At our doorstep are vast tracts of forested mountains with deep gorges, wild rivers and narrow, wind buffeted ridges. A perfect playground for the outdoor enthusiast or for the teenager with an overabundant supply of physical energy.

Helping hands in the bush (Photo: Andrew Fisher)
One of the many camps that students of our Class 9 (year 10) will experience is called the "find your limit' camp. The purpose is to offer these young people the opportunity to test their strength and endurance in face of the elements in the rugged surroundings of the Tararua Ranges.

Tararua River Crossing
Over four days the class traverses through dense bush, across rivers and over summits, with overnight accommodation in the tramping huts that are scattered throughout the Forest Park.

Windswept tussock near Jumbo Hut
Through the many outdoor experiences that are included in the curriculum at Raphael House, we hope to widen and enrich the young persons' experience of nature as well as their social interactions in challenging circumstances and their own personal resilience to being at the edge of their comfort zone in a safe and supportive setting.

Towards Mount Holdsworth

The sunrise gets an audience from Jumbo Hut